Cutting My Losses??? Buy a Lawn Mower Instead???

Pondering NOT attending the Historical Novel Society conference. In reading over the information about the agents who will be there, there’s no one who’s likely to be interested in my book. In looking at the offerings for sessions, nothing appeals to me at all. The only thing is I spent $$ on promotional materials for my book signing and I paid for the conference, but I could recoup the hotel costs and find something more fun to do with a weekend in June. I read a a couple of very honest and straightforward blog posts yesterday on why books don’t sell.

One key point was this, “15: Setting and storyline. If it’s fiction, having a setting outside of America, England or Ireland. “Because I love Russia (or Africa or Thailand)” just plain rarely sells well in America. Or having a storyline that is not entertaining—and very hard—to read (i.e. child abuse, sexual abuse, deaths of key characters).” My books 1) are not set in America, 2) are hard to read — they deal with tough subjects and key characters die.

Anyway, it’s a useful post by an agent whom, I thought, might be a fit for me. After looking at dozens of books — historical fiction — represented by his agency, he’s no fit at all.

The question comes back to why write. I think there are more reasons people write than they read. Not everything we write should be published. I’m the first to agree — but as the blog post points out, on any given day, 100,000 people start a blog on WordPress. Why? I wonder if that’s true or if it’s an exaggeration? I started keeping a blog here — a public blog — because I read a book that said an aspiring novelist needed to build a platform on WordPress. So, I did.

The blog posts (WordPress blogs, by the way) go on to say that bad words are, uh, bad  and that people who use them risk not being published or selling. I don’t like that world. I am as morally opposed to THAT as people who hate bad words are morally opposed to bad words. Imagine! Yet in none of my novels are there any “bad” words. Why? They don’t fit the characters, the time or the place. Fuck no. It’s got nothing to do with whether I “like” bad words or not. It has to do with the story. The scale, though. I’m opposed to censorship; they’re opposed to a few words. Which is the larger world view? And what world do I want to live in? And then…what world DO I live in?

I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Anyway, here are link 1 and  link 2 to these useful posts for anyone who’d like some straight-from-the hip commentary from an extremely successful agent with one foot heavily in the Christian book “genre”.

17 thoughts on “Cutting My Losses??? Buy a Lawn Mower Instead???

  1. And in a nutshell, that’s why I never bothered to write a second book. Not because the first failed. It knew from the start it was likely to fail. I also know nothing I’m likely to write will sell. I don’t see the point is putting all that effort into a futile gesture.

    I think you could sell if you re-targeted your stories. You ARE a novelist. Plots, stories, characters … you’ve got the “stuff” that goes into books that sell. Maybe if you think about it as a purely business decision.

    For me, it was easy. I’m not good at things that make a book popular (like plots and action). You are. Hard choice.

    • No choice at all, Marilyn. I’m not going to target my stories. They have a right to their lives. I’m going to tell them to the very best of my ability, though. 🙂 The futility thing — I have decided that the reward is in the work. The next book in this series is set in America (oh sacred fucking America) and will be all about that stuff Americans consider hallowed but know so little about any more — why exactly we have the first fucking Amendment that people yammer about without ever reading (or caring to follow, if we look at the religious right). “”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

  2. Good Lord, that “20 Reasons” article is certainly discouraging. I’m in the process of writing a memoir (which would have to go out there into the world against at least 17 gazillion other memoirs), but this memoir needs–no, wants–to be written. Published? Well, perhaps not, I don’t know. But I’m going to keep on writing that memoir until it has written itself out of me.

    I’m not sure that writers really have that much of a choice about writing; it seems to be something that nags at you until you finally get off your duff and get at it. After all, how many people who would never consider themselves to be “writers” journal, day in and day out? Or write poetry.

    I think the will finds a way, success be damned.

    • I think there are many reasons to write, more reasons to write than there are reasons to read. I think that’s a fundamental discrepancy between the two — we read either for entertainment or for information (which includes becoming enlightened about something). That’s it. People write for their own amusement, or to publish their work, or to express themselves, relieve their emotions, practice verbal gymnastics, keep their memories, tell people things, share ideas and plans and to say LOL. It’s ironic (to me) that in a world in which fewer people are reading more people want to be writers. Two of the men that were in my RIP writers workshop in the winter said, “Well, I retired, so I figured, I haven’t anything better to do so I’ll write a book.” And they wrote crap. I ended up really disliking one of them based on his portrayal of the female protagonist in his story. I just thought, “Wow. This guy doesn’t get women at all.” But in a workshop like that the whole idea is to be supportive… I felt dishonest being supportive. I dropped out…

      Yeah, the 20 things list is discouraging. It’s kind of funny, too, because on the guy’s website it says, “We’re here to help you publish your book” and then there’s that list. But I like the list. I haven’t read anything so upfront and straight out there. I appreciate it. And, I know I’m not going to waste any time talking to him if I go to the conference.

  3. I have a hard time imagining writing a book because “I don’t have anything better to do.” That’s actually quite amusing. And I too want the real deal as far as information goes, but it’s certainly a trifle bleak.

  4. What ever your decision, I hope the best for you. I admire your fortitude in writing the book. That was not an easy feat. So much research and so much time. To me, it would be blood, sweat and, tears.

    • Thank you — but honestly, except for the research into an era when people treated each other badly, it was mostly fun. And it was sure something to do through the winter in a new town. 🙂

  5. I write because I like to. I write the things I would want to read. The stories I think are good get rejected; the stories I think are crap get picked up. I haven’t figured that out, but I continue to write as many rejects as ones the editors like, because I write what I want to write. If they like it, great; if they hate it, that’s great, too.

  6. I started a blog for the same reasons as you (what a laugh that was!) but i’ve come to believe that social media takes the place of granny rocking by the fire: as we become more isolated as a society, we look for someone to talk to.
    Writing a novel, though – anyone who does it for fame and fortune is living in la-la land. I write novels because really, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, it makes me happy and it satisfies me. You write and paint for the same reason, i think. Successful publication? Pure luck, it seems to me: finding someone who believes in your book more than they believe in the hundreds of others that have come their way.
    Which is very depressing, because the ultimate validation has to come from the outside, and without publication, you don’t get that.
    Obviously I don’t know the answer or I’d have done it, but I think part of it is that strangers in strange lands have to sell themselves to get noticed (and whatever List 2 says, most writers HATE that) so the conference might be worth it just to establish that you exist. Coudn’t do it myself, but you’ve got more guts than I have!

    • I’m going to do it. I would be dumb not to since I’ve put a lot into it already. I think you’re right about pure luck. Part of me also feels that I should stand up for my work. I’m even willing to promote it, I just have no idea how and I’m not Ms. Extravert of 2015 either. I think you’ve got more guts than I; I’m afraid to go into the ocean.

      • It has to be about more than the quality of the product, given some of the rubbish that makes it to the shelves. (Salacious and/or violent seem to have a head start.) I agree with you about promotion – set it up for me and I’ll do it, otherwise I’m lost, particularly with ebook promotion which seems to involve voracious reading of other people’s stuff, ok if you aren’t busy writing.
        The ocean’s circumstance. I’ve been sploshing around in it since I was about 3. If I couldn’t read it by now, I’d deserve to drown.
        More power to you for doing the conference. It can’t help but be a positive.

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